My boyfriend keeps asking about my sexual history!
sam w replies:Ever since I opened up to my boyfriend about my sexual history he won't stop talking about it! At first I didn't mind him asking because he was very understanding and non judgemental about it so it made me feel more comfortable with him. But over time he soon became obsessive about it asking me every night to tell him about each experience in detail. He says it turns him on but I find it creepy and I'm worried that something might be wrong with him. I mean I know I wouldn't want to know about his past! I've told him one story but now he wants to hear more. It makes me feel anxious to tell him such personal information. But at the same time I feel bad saying no. Like is this normal of him to be so curious?
You've got a few layers to this question, so let's peel them off and look at them one by one.
Let's get "is this normal" out of the way first. Normal is a deeply unhelpful concept when it comes to sex. We can talk about how common certain behaviors or desires are, although even then that may not be a completely accurate picture (after all, if people think their desires aren't normal, they may not want to tell sexuality researchers about them). But the things that ping the "woohoo aroused" lobe in our brains are so varied and unpredictable that there's no one normal way to be sexual.
All that said, I can see how his intense, positive interest in your sexual past might seem odd to you. When we see cultural stories about how partners "should" react to each other's past escapades, the general assumption is that everyone will just pretend that history doesn't exist. Or, if interest is shown, it's in the form of negatively fixating on what those past sexual interactions mean for your current sexual interactions (we've definitely had questions like that before). In the real world, though, people have a wide range of reactions to each other's sexual pasts, from judgemental to accepting. So there's not one typical or standard way for one partner to feel about another partner's past.
If Scarleteen controlled the universe, your sexual history would be discussed in practical, shame free terms with your current partner. Talking about our sexual pasts is how we learn if there are any STI concerns to be aware of, or if certain sexual activities are triggers or otherwise affected by things that happened in the past. Also, acknowledging your partner's sexual history, and having them acknowledge yours, is part of seeing each other as whole people with lives that stretch beyond the confines of any one relationship. You don't have to want to know every detail, but being willing to accept that a partner did sexy things with other people before they did them with you is part of having a realistic view of your relationship.
What's more important than whether or not his interest is normal is how that interest makes you feel. And from your question, it sounds like it's freaking you out. If that's the case, you get to tell him that you're not comfortable sharing any more details than you already have. When your partner is into something, it can feel like you're being unfair or unadventurous for not wanting to engage in it. There's been a warping lately of concepts like sex positivity to imply that not being "game" for any sexual activity makes you unenlightened, but that's just not the case: beware anyone who tries to convince you of that idea! Sex positivity is as much about the right to say "no" as it is the right to say "yes." The desires of the person who enjoys an activity do not, and should not, override the desires of the person who doesn't.
Bottom line? It doesn't matter how turned on you telling these stories makes him, if it's uncomfortable for you, you get to stop and set the boundary of no more stories from your sexual past. That conversation can be as simple as, "boyfriend, I'm really uncomfortable with sharing details of my sexual history with you this way. I know you like it, but it freaks me out and I don't want to do it anymore." (If you feel like you need some guidance around starting that conversation, you might find our piece on talking about sex with a partner helpful.)
His reaction to that boundary is going to tell you a lot about him and the future of your relationship. If he agrees and is respectful of your request going forward, awesome! If he pouts, tries to talk you out of your boundary, or fails to respect it when you have sex, that's a sign that he might not be a great partner for you. If he wants to know why the change, be honest with him about how relating your sexual past as a means of arousing him makes you feel. If he's disappointed, that's one thing. It's normal to be bummed out if a partner nixes an activity that you enjoyed. However, that disappointment should not lead someone to push a partner to relinquish a boundary. Part of being a good partner is learning how to adjust to the needs of the other person.
Hopefully, this situation can be resolved with some good old-fashioned communication. If that's the case, you two might benefit from using a yes, no, maybe list going forward so that you there's an all around clearer understanding of where each other's boundaries are. That information can go a long way to helping you two have a comfortable, mutually pleasurable relationship.